Environmentally Responsible Treatment of and Useful Products from Aluminum Extraction Waste Materials

EPA Grant Number: SU835324
Title: Environmentally Responsible Treatment of and Useful Products from Aluminum Extraction Waste Materials
Investigators: Caneba, Gerard T.
Current Investigators: Caneba, Gerard T. , Bal, Andrea , Dills, Nathan , Gill, Marquis , Kleinow, Paige , Montgomery, Jessica , Tanghetti-Abrams, Zach , Wegner, Alex , Zayan, Kelly Anne
Institution: Michigan Technological University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $14,711
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Challenge Area - Green Infrastructure , P3 Awards , Sustainability


This project aims to address problems associated with the existence of repositories of bauxite tailings from Aluminum production by treatment with neutralizing polymer surfactants. It also aims to address the longer term problem of the reuse of bauxite tailings as a source of useful products.


This project would improve the sustainability features of the continued use of Aluminum in recyclable food contact packaging, consumer product, and lightweight structural/decorative applications. It is a material of choice in modern society due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, natural corrosion resistance, excellent workability, and ability to accept a wide range of finishes. Aluminum is also an excellent material choice for sustainable construction.

Expected Results:

  1. Demonstration of the neutralizing capability and biodegradability of the Michigan Tech-based reactive vinyl acetate-acrylic acid (VA-AA)-based copolymer surfactants, in the presence of real red mud bauxite tailings samples from Rio Tinton Alcan Int’l. Ltd.
  2. Demonstration of the binding capability of the above-mentioned polymer surfactants onto red mud particulates, with and without additional compatible recycled and off-spec polymer binders.
  3. Design of various applications of low-cost polymer composite materials that include the surface-treated red mud particulates.

Red mud neutralization with reactive vinyl acetate-acrylic acid (VA-AA)-based copolymer surfactants will be measured through the pH of mixtures of red mud with aqueous polymer surfactant solutions. Quantitative biodegradability tests of the polymer surfactants will be measured using a Microtox test kit system. Composite material samples of surface treated red mud with the polymer surfactants and additional binders will be tested for their mechanical, thermal, and volumetric properties. Finally, product designs from property measurements will be validated through manufacturing and applications industry contacts.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report